The Ministry of National Defense will speed up military reform and the process of easing military tension with North Korea in the coming year, the ministry reported to President Moon Jae-in on Thursday.
During the annual policy objective briefing, the Defense Ministry said it will begin preparations for the transfer of wartime operational control from the US in 2019.
At the briefing, Moon said the military has a central role in his national security and social policies, and called for a stronger and better prepared military.
Highlighting that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is one of “tentative peace” and that the country must stay alert until the denuclearization process is complete, Moon called on the military to strengthen its capabilities.
“The security situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula is changing rapidly, and our military must become stronger through swift military reform,” Moon said.
Citing the increase in the defense budget, the president went on to stress the importance of technology in defense. Next year’s defense budget has been set at 46.7 trillion won ($41.3 billion), up 3.5 trillion won from this year.
He also emphasized the importance of the South Korea-US alliance, and called for close cooperation with the US in dealing with North Korea-related issues, including the execution of an inter-Korean military agreement.
As part of plans regarding inter-Korean military cooperation, the Defense Ministry said it will continue the removal of guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone, and work toward launching an inter-Korean military committee next year.
The two Koreas have each demolished 11 guard posts from the DMZ this year, and have agreed to ultimately remove all such facilities from the border area.
At present, the North has about 160 guard posts, while the number of South Korean guard posts stands at about 60.
As for the inter-Korean military committee, the Defense Ministry said it plans to launch the body within the first half of next year.
Regarding military reform, the Defense Ministry said the military will be restructured to increase the use of the latest technologies.
Under the plans, the Army will see the establishment of a ground operations command in January. Units under the new command will include an artillery brigade.
The reform plans will also see the anti-terror unit expanded, while a unit operating high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles and a fighter wing with F-35A jets will be established in the Air Force.
In addition, the number of generals will be reduced to 360 by 2022 from the current 436.
Regarding the transfer of wartime operational control, the Defense Ministry said assessment of initial operational control capability will take place in August.